I'll link to Joe's review of this title, and his review is definitely worth reading. I read the book incredibly quickly - I think I zinged through it between one long Friday evening and a lazy Saturday morning. The action moves fast and the writing, as Joe states, is quite good for what is an extraordinarily trashy, lurid piece of 70's vigilante escapism.
However, unlike Joe, I'm just not feeling the love for this book. Most of my problems center around Bronson himself. The back cover copy claims the character used to be a "Knee-Jerk Liberal" who feels that criminals are simply poor misunderstood unfortunates in need of some TLC. However, none of this comes up in the book itself, and it is clear that the publisher is stealing the character from Brian Garfield's DEATH WISH, or more pointedly, the first DEATH WISH movie (naming the main character "Bronson" is a bit of a giveaway). Within the first five or six pages, our "Knee-Jerk Liberal" is already cold-bloodedly plotting how he's going to hunt down and exterminate all those responsible for his family's murders. He goes to a pawn shop and buys a silenced nine-millimeter automatic (funny how he manages to score one of those in 1975 at the first pawn shop he visits...), then almost immediately (it might be that very same night) starts hunting and killing off members of the gang affiliated with his family's killers.
As Joe points out in his review, Bronson has no problem killing anyone, and this is where it starts to get somewhat ridiculous. Supposedly he's doing this because he doesn't want to get identified, but of course within a few days of his rampage, the papers and the police are already fingering him for the murders since - surprise! - when you drop off the grid and then the criminals associated with your family's murder start dying, you're a suspect. In fact, since most of the killing Bronson does in his home town is with the same pistol he's used to kill a number of people who're clearly not in any way part of the killer's gang, if he'd gone to trial any sympathy related to his revenge killings would quickly go by the wayside. For a guy smart enough to wipe off his fingerprints everywhere he goes, and to at least occasionally pick up his cartridge casings, it is clear he hasn't thought a lot of this through. And, of course, if he wanted to be really thorough, he should have iced anyone who provided him with the weapons and information he uses in his rampage (the reporter, the pawn shop owner, the guy who sells him his car). But of course, one would never kill "real" people, those with jobs and who are productive members of society. Hookers aren't really people, right Bronson?
In retrospect, after reading through the book, it feels more like 190 pages of pure vitriol aimed at the "scum of society", and that means gays, minorities, and pretty much anyone else down on their luck. Although the elderly black woman who serves as his informant early on isn't depicted all that negatively, Bronson doesn't even hesitate to gun down in cold blood the young black men who visit her house while Bronson is there after he's discovered her dead (and of course, they're all armed). Sure, they're going to assume he killed her, but instead of using this as an opportunity to show some restraint on the character's part, the author just has him pulling the trigger. And, further on, Bronson and Teresa (his underage Chicano lover) are accosted by a Chicano gang that immediately attacks them in the parking lot of a diner, and they later go after the couple again in the middle of the highway during a blizzard (???). As for the way in which the author handles homosexuality, every gay man in the novel is depicted as some simpering, lisping, limp-wrist who comes onto Bronson like a runaway freight train. Honestly, it reads way too much like the archetypal anti-homosexual viewpoint that a gay man will try to pressure any straight man into having sex, no matter their personality (of which Bronson is entirely lacking) or looks (and we don't even know really what Bronson looks like, since he's essentially a cypher, an empty vessel we're supposed to pour our indignant selves into while reading).
In fact, throughout the book, Bronson has all the personality of your typical first-person shooter POV character, moving from target to target and killing / torturing in all matter of creative ways. I actually had less of a problem with the torture killings than I did with other aspects of the book, mostly because at least the people he tortures are directly responsible for the misery in his life. Again though, there is so little emotional justification - or emotion AT ALL - that I have essentially zero sympathy for Bronson. No, I don't need maudlin reflections on an idyllic white-collar suburban paradise now laid to waste, but Bronson might as well be the Terminator, for all the emotion he displays - and I also stick by that with regards to his relationship with Teresa, which I felt was extraordinarily wooden and stapled on, more of a "Yeah, I love you too - now shut up with your womanly caterwauling!" than anything else. Call me a Knee-Jerk Liberal, but I was pretty disgusted by a scene in the car where Bronson beats the crap out of Teresa for saying something about his family that he took offense to, and she tells him it's okay that he beats her up, as long as he doesn't hate her, and then she proceeds to tear his clothes off and have sex with him, because she's so turned on!
To conclude, I can see this book reading well for its target demographic circa 1975, but it doesn't age very gracefully. I'm not looking for all the psychological self-reflection Brian Garfield put into DEATH WISH (here's my review of that book if you're interested), but the character of Bronson is so non-existent, I felt the only depiction of his character - and by that I mean, inner character - was in his actions, and those don't create a very sympathetic protagonist.